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Song of the Lark Paperback – March 26, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


''The Song of the Lark is one of several works in which Cather displays her lyrical powers.'' --Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From the Inside Flap

"The time will come when she will be ranked above Hemingway." --Leon Edel

In this powerful portrait of the self-making of an artist, Willa Cather created one of her most extraordinary heroines. Thea Kronborg, a minister's daughter in a provincial Colorado town, seems destined from childhood for a place in the wider world. But as her path to the world stage leads her ever farther from the humble town she can't forget and from the man she can't afford to love, Thea learns that her exceptional musical talent and fierce ambition are not enough.
It is in the solitude of a tiny rock chamber high in the side of an Arizona cliff--"a cleft in the heart of the world"--that Thea comes face to face with her own dreams and desires, stripped clean by the haunting purity of the ruined cliff dwellings and inspired by the whisperings of their ancient dust. Here she finds the courage to seize her future and to use her gifts to catch "the shining, elusive element that is life itself--life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose." In prose as shimmering and piercingly true as the light in a desert canyon, Cather takes us into the heart of a woman coming to know her deepest self. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Wilder Publications (March 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604595108
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604595109
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,379,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patricia A. Powell on December 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the first novel that I have read by Willa Cather, and so I began my reading with no specific expectations. What I found was an extraordinary American writer. Her descriptions, and her ability to sum up the lifetime of a character in just a few sentences or lines are unlike the writings of anyone else I have read. She reminds me most of Henry James, although she is easier to read..
Thea, the subject of this early Willa Cather novel is flawed, and not really a heroine at all. She is an artist; her art is music. Her family and neighbors in Moonstone Colorado barely recognize what this means; most just find her odd. Thea is a loner. She has no friends her own age. Her siblings do not like her. But, she is the subject of attention from the town doctor, a railroad worker, a drunkard piano teacher, and Mexican laborers. All recognize something special in her; all contribute to her early struggle to find her art, and herself.
It is a railroad accident that changes her life. When her friend, Ray Kennedy, dies in a railroad accident, he leaves Thea a $600 inheritance. These funds take her to Chicago to study piano. There she struggles in poverty, and is discouraged, but she also gets her first glimpse of who she is as an artist.
This is a timeless story about struggle. What does it take to be an artist? What does the artistic commitment mean? Thea does not visit her mother before her death because she had a special opportunity to sing a Wagnerian part in Germany. Her response seems selfish, and uncaring. Her sweetheart turns out to be unavailable, he is unhappily married. Thea has little personal life; people are somewhat incidental to her. Her life models that of a true artist.
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Format: Hardcover
For some reason, this is a Cather novel that sometimes goes unnoticed, given the popularity of OH PIONEERS! and MY ANTONIA. But don't overlook it. It's a thinly veiled autobiography of the emergence of a female artist in America at the turn of the Century. Cather had met a famous Wagnerian opera singer, who inspired the character of Thea Kronborg....but this is really Cather's own tale. The story of a young girl, growing up at the edge of the known world, in this case, Moonstone, Colorado, doubling for Cather's own Nebraska home town. It's about the influences on her life, her mother, the men who surround and protect her--sensing that she has a special gift that needs nurturance. And, ultimately, it's about that emergence--as the character goes from being a sturdy Swedish immigrant child to "The Great Kronborg," a Wagnerian opera Diva on the stages of Europe. The novel contains many memorable characters--and a transformation scene in Arizona that is among the most important in Cather's work. It's also deeply moving. For anyone who loves American literature, it should not be missed.
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Format: Paperback
Behind "The Song of the Lark" is a true story, which James Woodress presents in his fine biography of Willa Cather. In 1913, working on a piece for McClure's magazine, Cather interviewed the opera star Olive Fremstad, who had been born in Sweden and raised in Minnesota. By coincidence, the night of their first meeting, Cather went to see a production at the Met; right before the performance was to begin, the director learned that the lead singer had fallen into a dead faint. With only minutes to prepare for the role, Fremstad agreed to fill in, and Cather was amazed that the tired, faded, unapproachable star she interviewed earlier in the day had somehow transformed herself into "a vision of dazzling youth and beauty."

From this kernel grew the story of Thea Kronborg, the heroine of "The Song of the Lark," which is Cather's portrait of the diva as a young woman. The first part, "Friends of Childhood," is standard bildungsroman fare: a young farm girl from a large family in Moonstone, Colorado, grows up and moves to the big city--in this case, Chicago--to pursue her dreams. The early sections of the book are pure Cather: a strong-headed yet friendly young girl surrounded by a colorful cast of multi-ethnic characters, from the anonymous tramp who drowns himself in the water tank to her alcohol-fueled German music teacher to the lively free-spirits living in the Mexican section of town. Nearly a novel unto itself, this opening section sketches the entire town of Moonstone with a multiplicity of tragicomic details

When Thea moves to Chicago, however, both her character and the book's tone changes. Initially her studies go well, but she finds her artistic growth chained by the expectations of the folks back home.
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Format: Paperback
Rarely, if ever, do books captivate me on such a level as this one, and even more rarely do I find such a strong connection between a fictional character and myself. That is what I discovered in the pages of Song of the Lark.
In preparing to post this review, I saw the title of another, which I believe read Hideously Dull and Boring, or something to that effect. This story, my first Willa Cather, was nothing of the sort.
Within the pages of this book a reader finds passion, love, art, beauty, despair, tragedy, disgust, longing, and triumph. Not bad for 9.95 in this day and age.
Thea Kronborg, the heroine of the story, is from very earliest meeting somewhat different from the rest of her family, and the other citizens of Moonstone, Colorado. She is one of several children, but is seen as 'something different, something special' by Howard Archie, the town doctor. He becomes her confidant, her friend, and patron as Thea rises from midwestern girl to Metropolitan Opera headliner.
Through her training and triumph, Thea discovers what is sorely lacking in others in her profession....passion, committment, and integrity. She bemoans the success of other singers, as merely 'crowd pleasing' rather that technically superior, or even correct. She rails at the off-pitch, lifeless tones of some of the more popular of her contemporaries, thinking them hideous and beastly, and severely lacking in talent.
Thea's life starts in a small Colorado town, where she experiences her first 'love', and her first tragedy when she loses that love. But as she grows, as a singer, and as a woman, Thea realizes, through a series of highs and lows, that her one true love is the pursuit of her passion, her singing.
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